I met someone this weekend who has done something original. Seeing her pottery was an eye-opener, not only because her works are so fresh and robust, but because they are also full of colorful glazes and whimsical brush strokes that enrich the spirit when you look at them. At least, that’s the kind of impact they have on me.
Over the years, I have been interested in, and collected pottery made by potters along the traditional lines of Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada–anchors of British tradition in making pots–seminal pottery aesthetic and techniques learned in Japan, making symmetrical pieces glazed with zen-like brushstroke decoration. In the U.S., I’ve collected the work of Warren MacKenzie for its utilitarian, yet simple forms made by a modest and prodigious potter who is still going strong as he nears the age of ninety in Minnesota.
It seems in retrospect that the Holy Grail for making pottery has been to emulate this tradition of Anglo-Japanese pottery techniques, manifesting them in well-made (regular-shapes) in browns, tans and more earth tones.
What Sandy Brown has done is to transmute this tradition by means of her own creative spirit. While utilizing Japanese clay techniques (SB lived and studied pottery techniques in Japan for five years, thirty years ago) she has brought her soft, yet robust forms into playful realizations that are uplifting to look at and use. To me, she has found a space between the somewhat rigid traditions of Leach/Hamada/Mackenzie and jimmied open a place of light where color enters in and shapes become organic (a much overused word these days.) I read on-line that she is considered one of Britain’s pre-eiminent potters, with works exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum and other prestigious institutions all over the world.
I was blown away (not often for me) by how different and how true these pieces are because they resonate with and inspire me to look for that kind of originality in my own search for fulfillment as a writer.
Rigidity dominates in that arena as well–you have to follow certain rules to produce brown and tan writing that then has to go through a rigid, punishing process defined by the publishing industry as we now know it. But have you noticed that more and more people are “self-publishing?” In movies, there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of “vanity” taint that applies to self-published books. More actors are executive producers of their own work: Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, Hilary Swank. It seems to be the only path to creating your own work, your way. Of course, you have to have what you believe is truly exceptional before you’ll put your own money and efforts in order to justify bringing it forth and promoting it.
In making pottery or writing books, there are experimenters who “do their own thing”–making pottery that may express themselves but hardly communicates or resonates with anybody else; or experimental writing that appears to be merely self-indulgent (e.g., David Foster Wallace). SOMEWHERE, there is a place to be original AND resonate message with others in a wholly new way: as colorful, whimsical and charming as these pottery pieces are, made by Sandy Brown.
Seeing these works of originality and their emergence in a previously brown pottery world of predictable shapes is an inspiration to keep going on the unlit path, seeking to be original. Artful without being indulgent. To open up the expected and humdrum sameness of what we are used to seeing and reading everywhere, and to let the color come through!
Thanks, Sandy Brown!
Click this link to see what I’m talking about!